Ukrainian officials say Russian forces have bombed a theater in the besieged city of Mariupol where hundreds of civilians are sheltering, even as the sides appear optimistic about continuing talks to end the war in Ukraine.
There was no immediate word on the number of people killed or injured in what Mariupol city council said was an air strike on the theater Wednesday. Ukraine’s foreign ministry said many people were trapped in the building and accused Russia of committing war crimes.
Russia’s Defense Ministry has denied attacking the building and accused the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian far-right militia, of blowing up the building, RIA news agency reported.
In Kyiv, people gathered in their homes and shelters amid a citywide curfew that lasted until Thursday morning, when Russia shelled areas in and around the city, including residential areas a few blocks from the palace. president 2.5 km (1.5 miles).
A 12-story apartment building in central Kyiv burst into flames after being hit by shrapnel.
Separately, a group of 10 people were killed by Russian troops in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv while they were waiting in line for bread, as reported by the Suspilne public broadcaster.
The report included a photo believed to show corpses. The Russian Defense Ministry denied the allegation, arguing that none of its troops were in Chernihiv, and suggested that this atrocity was committed by Ukrainian forces or the whole thing was a ruse by Ukrainian intelligence.
Later on Wednesday, in the same city in northern Ukraine, five people, including three children, were killed when Russian forces shelled a residential building, emergency officials said. .
Putin said that the operation will be planned
Russian troops have halted at the gates of the capital after suffering heavy losses and capturing no major cities in a three-week war that Western officials say Moscow will win within days. next.
However, Russian President Putin on Wednesday said the operation had gone “successfully, according to a pre-approved plan”, and he criticized Western sanctions against Moscow.
He accused the West of trying to “squeeze us, put pressure on us, turn us into a weak, dependent nation”.
International pressure against the Kremlin grew and its isolation deepened as the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, Order Russia stop attacking Ukraine, although there is little hope that it will comply.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Kyiv, said countries that refuse to comply with the court order could be referred to the United Nations Security Council, where Russia holds veto power. However, the ruling “helps build the case for any prosecution,” Khan said.
According to the United Nations refugee agency, the fighting has displaced more than 3 million people from Ukraine.
Talks are going on
Another round of talks between the two sides was scheduled for Wednesday. After Tuesday’s talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said neutral military status for Ukraine was being “seriously discussed” by the two sides, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia’s request for ending war is becoming “more realistic”.
Hopes of diplomatic progress to end the war rose after Zelenskyy most explicitly acknowledged on Tuesday that Ukraine was unlikely to achieve its goal of joining NATO. Putin has long viewed Ukraine’s NATO aspirations as a threat to Russia.
Foreign Minister Lavrov welcomed Zelenskyy’s comments and said the “entrepreneurial spirit” starting to emerge in the talks “gives hope that we can agree on this issue”.
“Neutrality is being seriously discussed in relation to security guarantees,” Lavrov said on Russian television.
“There are specific formulas that, in my view, are almost universally agreed upon.”
Russia’s chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, said the sides were discussing a possible compromise for a Ukraine with a smaller, unaligned military.
However, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak rejected Russia’s claims that Ukraine is ready to adopt an equivalent model of neutrality with Sweden or Austria. Podolyak said Ukraine needed strong allies and “well-defined security guarantees” to stay safe.
Earlier in a Speech before the United States Congress by video link, Zelenskyy called for tougher sanctions on Russia and more weapons to help his country.
He cited the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and quoted Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech calling for a no-fly zone over Ukraine – a move that Western countries including the US decided against.
US President Joe Biden then announced the US would send more anti-aircraft, anti-armor weapons and drones, calling Putin a “war criminal” when speaking to reporters. A Kremlin spokesman said the comment was “unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric”.